October of 2014 marked IBM’s annual conference for Cognos and a variety of other products, which was formerly known as IBM Information on Demand and now known as IBM Insight. The conference was filled with sessions, hands on labs, guest speakers, booth visits, and much more. Just because you couldn’t attend Insight 2014 in Las Vegas doesn’t mean you should miss out on the key features of the conference. Here are some of the highlights:
The new 10.2.2 release of Cognos Business Intelligence was the topic of many sessions and presentations, not to mention conversations held by Cognos users. Some of the Cognos 10.2.2 changes discussed relate to reporting and administration features, while others relate to things like hardware and software architecture. See Jeff’s post for more about what’s new in Cognos 10.2.2. The beauty of being at the conference is that these changes were discussed in detail, and customers large and small have the opportunity to start planning implementation of new ideas or time to plan for changes to internal Cognos architecture.
IBM’s cloud offerings were a featured topic at Insight sessions. IBM is promoting cloud infrastructure for Business Analytics, including Public, Hybrid, and Private Clouds. The message was clear that both Cognos BI and Cognos TM1 are available on the cloud, which might open BI to another group of organizations that prefer to reduce or minimize large capital investment in on-premise infrastructure. Cloud installation eliminates those upfront costs for hardware and installation, and turns the platforms into more manageable ongoing operational expenses. Because IBM handles things like upgrades, patch management, and hardware replacement, support and maintenance expenses are reduced and many risks associated with installation are eliminated.
IBM Watson: more than just a Jeopardy champion!
It was difficult to turn one’s head in the conference hallways or at the Solution EXPO without reading “Watson” somewhere. In short, the current iteration of Watson processes large amounts of structured and unstructured data to find conclusions with measured degrees of confidence. One brief example of how Watson can be utilized is in user modeling, where the tool can examine a body of text written by a person and identify some traits about the person, like openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, etc. The idea behind this type of analysis is to help organizations engage their users with the most effective techniques for the individual on a large scale. One use case that IBM highlighted was in law enforcement intelligence gathering, where the example usage included Watson humorously using the connections of the fictional character “Heisenburg” of Breaking Bad to help identify the man behind the pseudonym.
Notably, Watson Analytics, the BI-centric portion of the growing Watson ecosystem, is planned to integrate with Cognos BI in Q2 2015. How it will be integrated is still left somewhat to the imagination. What is known, however, is that an open beta of Watson Analytics is now available for signup on the Web at watsonanalytics.com for users to kick the tires on this ambitious effort by IBM.
IBM also worked to promote and educate on BlueMix, the Platform as a Service cloud service, for application developers. The goal is to easily enable users to pick a variety of software offerings that are available to deploy and link together so that coders can focus on coding and not on infrastructure. Many services are available, from the basics like databases all the way to programmatic interaction with Watson Analytics. BlueMix is priced on an hourly basis with a free trial and free usage tier available, similar to the pricing model of Amazon Web Services.
One of the most awesome aspects of the sessions and the conference in general is the ability to actually hear the specifics on things like what is new, performance, implementation, security, and really any other topic directly from the people who make it happen. IBM engineers and managers alike speak at the conference on just about any interesting topic in the Cognos world, and everyone is able and willing to answer specific questions on the particular problems facing the attendees. What’s more is that you get the chance to rub elbows with these same individuals throughout the week, whether it is at other sessions, the Solution EXPO, or even at the provided meals.
The chance to have the ear of the people that make Cognos happen is really great, but don’t forget that many of the major players in the Cognos universe inside and outside of IBM are also gathered under one (gigantic) roof at the Mandalay Bay. The Solution EXPO is a great place to meet and catch up with colleagues and partners without the disjointed business email thread or instant message conversation that is the common method the rest of the year. Discussions about how to make your job easier or what new initiatives might be worth approaching in the coming year are commonplace, and there are plenty of organizations present that can help you “get to where you need to go.”
The EXPO, however, presents more than just the names and companies that want to help you reach your goals. The conference’s overarching Big Data theme of the past couple of years lends itself to including more areas of interest than some past years where only certain Cognos products were featured.
As many may know, the Cognos world is larger than simply BI, including everything from TM1 to Cognos Planning, Disclosure Management, SPSS, and more. Even more interesting, however, is how the conference’s umbrella of Big Data brings whole new IBM areas of specialty into scope. While the Business Analytics section is huge, IBM also showed how the areas of Information Management and Enterprise Content Management interrelate with the tried-and-true areas in the new frontier that is Big Data. A full exploration of the Solution EXPO would likely lead to a thoughtful introspection of how these areas could fill out potential gaps in the overall strategy of a traditional Cognos customer.
This is certainly only a part of what was discussed at Insight 2014. Attending the conference is certainly the best way to experience the things discussed here, but short of being able to do that, these notes can at least provide a glimpse into what it is like to experience Insight and why it is so beneficial for all its attendees.